Big does not always equal profitable. Many of the world’s largest companies have no profits – we’re looking at you, Uber – or decelerating or surprisingly small earnings for companies of their size.
Fortune, long a reliable supplier of lists about corporations, has sized up the most profitable companies in the world.
Here’s the top five.
Many companies struggled with profitability last year as the effects from the COVID-19 pandemic hit the bottom line of businesses worldwide.
In fact, 69 of the Fortune Global 500 companies lost a combined $275 billion in profits in 2020 — the median loss of which was approximately $1.44 billion.
Even Walmart, which claimed the top spot on the Fortune Global 500 for the eighth consecutive year, saw a 9.2% decline in year-over-year profits.
The big box corporation doesn’t even break the top five on Fortune’s Global 500 most profitable list.
So then it’s perhaps even more of an achievement for the companies that managed to reach the status of “most profitable.”
Here’s a list of the top five companies, ranked by their 2020 profits.
- Profts: $57.4 billion
- Revenues: $274.5 billion
- Rank on Fortune’s Global 500 list: 6
After a two-year absence, Apple regained the title of Fortune’s Global 500’s “most profitable” company. The iPhone maker earned more than $57 billion in profits in 2020 — a 3.9% gain from 2019.
The technology company capped off a record quarter in September, for which CEO Tim Cook creditedrecord sales of its Mac and iPad products.
And those profits didn’t even include the latest iPhone 12 earnings, which are Apple’s first 5G-enabled iPhone lineup.
2. Saudi Aramco
- Profts: $49.3 billion
- Revenues: $229.8 billion
- Rank on Fortune’s Global 500 list: 14
Saudi Aramco, officially the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, slipped to the #2 spot after spending two years atop Fortune’s “most profitable” companies list.
The company brought in nearly $50 billion in profits in 2020, marking a more than 44% drop from the year prior thanks to the global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Saudi Aramco noted that the pandemic was one of the most challenging periods for the oil and gas industry because revenues were significantly impacted by lower crude oil prices and fewer volumes sold.
3. SoftBank Group
- Profts: $47.1 billion
- Revenues: $56.2 billion
- Rank on Fortune’s Global 500 list: 184
SoftBank may have blundered with its investment in WeWork, dropping its valuation of the office space company to $2.9 billion last year after reportedly investing $18.5 billion, but the Japanese-based company still ranked third for profits among Fortune’s Global 500 companies.
Last year, SoftBank brought in approximately $47 billion in profits in 2020, a turnaround from a year prior when it posted its largest-ever net loss.
Part of the winning strategy came down to the fact that several SoftBank-backed companies, including insurance-provider Lemonade and food delivery app DoorDash, pulled off successful IPOs last year.
4. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China
- Profits: $45.8 billion
- Revenues: $182.8 billion
- Rank on Fortune’s Global 500 list: 20
The world’s largest bank by assets, the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, grew its net profit 1.3% year-over-year, ending 2020 with approximately $45.8 in profits.
But the earnings increase came at the end of a tumultuous year for the lender, which saw earnings pick up steam in the last three months of 2020 as the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
- Profits: $44.2 billion
- Revenues: $143.0 billion
- Rank on Fortune’s Global 500 list: 33
Tech giant Microsoft brought in $44 billion in profits last year, up 12.8% from a year prior. Much of that is due to Microsoft’s prominent role in the software and cloud industries with products such as Teams and Azure.
CEO Satya Nadella also noted Microsoft’s “breakthrough quarter for gaming” during the fourth quarter, reporting that Microsoft’s Xbox content and services revenue rose 65%, thanks to the popularity of the company’s Minecraft video game and more people staying home during the pandemic.